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Letters of Protection and Attorney were legal instruments which contain the names of men who were planning to enlist for military service abroad, to protect their interests while they were away from home. A Letter of Protection was designed to protect the individual from prosecution while he was abroad, and a Letter of Attorney was the device by which the man intending to serve abroad appointed a legal representative to look after his interests while he was absent. Unlike a Muster Roll, which was a list of soldiers already serving within a retinue, these letters indicate merely an intention to serve, rather than a statement of service already being undertaken. And in this group of documents, it was mainly soldiers of a higher rank which took out Protections. Archers rarely needed to do this; their lower social status meant that they had little or no property or financial interests to protect. [1] On the other hand, a very small number of archers did take out letters of protection, including the following, who is included for interest because of the rarity of such entries:

“William atte Lee, [who] took out letters of protection for service with Sir Thomas Percy in 1378 and 1379 (at sea), and in 1383 (garrison of Brest), and mustered as an archer in Percy’s retinue in 1385.”

The Letters of Protection and Attorney database includes 25,495 names of soldiers taken from the Treaty (or French) Rolls of the English Chancery, Gascon Rolls and Scottish Rolls for the years 1369-1453. They refer to service in France, Normandy, Gascony, Picardy, Aquitaine, Brest, Calais, Scotland, Ireland, and the Channel Islands, but mainly Anglo-French business, and it cost two shillings to have such letters issues by chancery. [2] However, with the passage of time, there was a reduction in the numbers of letters which were issued, partly because more men were enlisting who had no land or property to protect from vexatious legal claims while they were overseas.[3] The letters of protection covered the duration of service, and men raised for service in this way may have been granted pardons for past crimes.[4] It has also been suggested that some men took out letters of protection although they had no intention of enlisting.[5]

This group of documents do not generally quote military rank, although they occasionally include a place of origin and an occupation before enlisting took place. [6]

The Soldiers

The list includes the names of only 2 men named Large from the database of more than 25,000 entries, and it extends and supplements the results of the previous studies. Would the same general principles outlined in the linked studies of their namesakes in the Muster Rolls and the Normandy Garrison Rolls, namely that the men enlisted from areas of England where their captains or commanders held landed interests, apply equally in the Letters of Protection and Attorney database, or might useful differences emerge, because of the extremely unusual surname?

 1.Roger Large served under the captaincy of Edmund of Langley (1341-1402), earl of Cambridge and the first duke of York, who raised a retinue to fight under the command of his older brother, Edward, Prince of Wales (the Black Prince, 1330 -1376), in Gascony/Aquitaine, for one year from 28 February 1369.[7] Large took out protection for this period of service, and because of this, he is likely to have been a man-at-arms rather than a lowly archer. There is no record of a soldier called Roger Large in any muster roll, and so no documentary evidence of his rank or status is available from other sources.

The dataset shows that Roger Large was one of 36 men who took out protection on 28 February 1369, and of these, 23 (64%) were men-at-arms (either Esquire or Knight). As expected, no archers were represented in this group due to serve with Langley, or at least if there were, their rank was not recorded. The total complement of men taking out protection or letters of attorney between 12 February and 14 April 1369, was 67, exclusively men-at-arms in those 26 whose rank was recorded (39%). In contrast, the number of men who took out protection or letters of attorney for service under Edward the Black Prince in Gascony/Aquitaine, between 16 January 1369 and 6 March 1369, which covers the whole period of Langley’s enlistments, was 175. Other commanders of men taking out protection or letters of attorney for service in Gascony/Aquitaine at this time, included John Hastings, earl of Pembroke, Sir William Windsor and Sir Walter Hewitt.[8] Exactly why the majority of entries in this group had no rank assigned to them – were they all men-at-arms – or where some of them archers like atte Lee, is unclear, particularly when their names were entered on the same or consecutive membranes and on the same date? Was this perhaps evidence that different clerks made their entries in a slightly different way?

Roger Large’s captain, Edmund of Langley was the fifth son and fourth surviving son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, and he acquired lands, estates and manors in Yorkshire, Tynedale in Northumberland, Northamptonshire, Essex, Wiltshire, Stamford & Kesteven in Lincolnshire, Buckinghamshire, and in Norfolk. The majority of Langley’s estates were north of the Trent, and were given to him on the death of his godfather, John de Warenne, (7th earl of Surrey).[9] Langley was also Governor and Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports.[10] He married, first, Isabella of Castile in 1372, by whom there were two sons and a daughter, and second, Joan Holland, daughter of Thomas, earl of Kent, in about 1493; a childless marriage. The military activities of Edmund of Langley and the men under his command from Stamford, Lincolnshire, are the subject of a recent project entitled “Men from Stamford, Lincolnshire, commanded by Edmund of Langley: Comparison of Names in the Poll Tax and Soldiers’ Databases.” [11]

John Large took out a protection to serve under Sir William Beauchamp, Lord Bergavenny, at the Calais Garrison, for one year from 15 June 1385.[12] In neither his case nor that of Roger Large was the status or rank included, although letters of protection rarely recorded this. As was probably the case for Roger Large, John Large was most likely to have been a man-at-arms, and for the same reason. As noted previously, the extreme rarity of this surname makes it a useful investigative device to explore ways in which a soldier might move between different retinues, captains and commanders, and also change his rank and type of service.[13] In other words, for a surname of this rarity, it is difficult to argue that entries of the name in this particular dataset, refer to more than one single individual, and on the face of it, this seems extremely unlikely.

Could this John Large be the man who came from Radipole, in the Culliford Tree Hundred of Dorset, now part of the coastal town of Weymouth, and who had also served in 1375 under Edward Despenser & Edmund Langley, under John Darundell & John of Gaunt in 1378, and who then went on to serve under Thomas Mortimer, & Richard Fitzalan in 1387? Bearing in mind the extreme rarity of the name, it is likely that he also served under Reginald Cobham & Thomas Berkeley in 1404, as was proposed in the earlier study “ Using the Poll Tax to Identify Medieval Archers.”[14] The period between June 1385 and June 1386 in which he was intended for service in the Calais garrison falls between the proposed duties in 1378 and 1387, and so in terms of his availability for duties in Calais, there was no obvious impediment. The evidence from the Poll Tax records shows that a man named John Large paid 16d. tax from his home village in Dorset in 1381, which is significantly more than the lowest amount of tax to be paid in the village, which was 4d.[15] The record does not include a wife (ux’), indicating that in all likelihood he was unmarried, or perhaps a widower, and as such, might find paid military service overseas, an attractive and financially rewording proposition. Of the 20 men who paid tax that year, 13 had a wife, although none was named, and of the remainder, 2 were sons of tax payers, who themselves paid tax. The tax of 1381 was levied in two instalments, the first on 21 January that year, and the remainder by 2 June, with the age at liability being set at 15 years. Everyone was to be charged according to means, the rich were to help the poor, and no single person or married couple was to pay more than sixty groats (twenty shillings) or less than one groat (fourpence).[16] The imposition by the crown of this unpopular Poll Tax was the major precipitant of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.[17]

The activities and whereabouts of John Large between 1381 and 1385 are unknown even if he had returned home briefly following the catastrophic outcome of the Darundell expedition of 1378-1379. Using the procedure previously adopted of establishing connections between the captains and commanders of the retinues in which the soldiers named ‘Large’ served, and the magnates’ spheres of influence, the most plausible village of origin, and the likely enlistment of neighbours, the following account for John Large of the Calais Garrison, is tentatively proposed.6 In this example of John Large serving in 1385, it appears that his captain’s connections are the most likely variable to be relevant to establishing the case.[18] Large’s captain in the Calais Garrison of 1385, Sir William Beauchamp (c.1343-1411), was the fourth son of Thomas de Beauchamp (1313-1369), the 11th earl of Warwick and Katherine, daughter of Roger de Mortimer (1287-1330), the 1st earl of March. He became the 1st Baron Bergavenny, marrying Lady Joan FitzAlan, daughter of Richard FitzAlan (1346-1397), the 11th earl of Arundel (the appellant) and Elizabeth de Bohun. In consequence, he was extremely well connected, not only through his own family, but also by marriage into one of the principal aristocratic families of the late medieval period. The combination of influence, power and prestige held by the Beauchamp/Warwick and the FitzAlan/Arundel families taken together, was enormous and probably unsurpassed at about this time.[19]

Beauchamp’s military career included the Castilian campaign of 1367 commanded by Edward, the Black Prince, and during the same year, a crusade to Prussia. In 1370 he fought in Gascony and in 1373 he was on Gaunt’s chevauchée in France. After his Calais garrison command, he went to Portugal with Edmund Langley, earl of Cambridge in 1381–1382. John of Gaunt rewarded him for his services in 1373, and in 1375 he was awarded a life annuity of 100 marks by Edward III. He was made a knight in 1367 and Knight of the Garter (KG) in 1375, the year of the Calais garrison appointment.[20] His lands included estates in the west midlands, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, East Anglia, Somerset, and briefly, in Pembroke. The retinues in which John Large fought had brought him into the service of captains and commanders who were not only well known to William Beauchamp, but to whom he was related by marriage. These included in particular, John Darundell, Richard FitzAlan of Arundel and John of Gaunt, and so it is proposed that Large was recruited to the Calais Garrison of 1385-1386 as a result of one or more of these connections. His subsequent inclusion in the retinues of Sir Thomas Mortimer (closely related through Beauchamp’s mother’s family) and Richard of Arundel (Beauchamp’s father-in-law) in 1387 may have followed a similar process in addition to the considerations of land ownership in the Radipole area of Dorest.

Beauchamp’s responsibilities to the Calais Garrison lasted from 1384-1389, during which time he commanded a total of 165 men. The numbers of soldiers in his detachment between 1385-1386 when John Large was scheduled for service, included 17 men-at-arms and 37 soldiers whose rank and status were not recorded. Many of these were archers, since by the early 1400s, the ratio of archers to men-at-arms was often 1:1. From around 1406 these proportions changed so that a quarter of each garrison were to be men-at-arms, no doubt reflecting the type of military activity in which they were expected to engage, and the previous experience of the war effort and its demands. [21] Considering the contingent of men enlisting  for service for the twelve months from June 1385, there may well have been periods of overlap in the duties by those proceeding and those following these dates, which are recorded on rolls TNA C76/69 – TNA C76/74. Thus, soldiers serving in Calais for the twelve months from 1384 are recorded on TNA C76/68 & TNA C76/69. The dates on which the names were recorded indicates systematic work by the clerks involved in the process and a preliminary review of Beauchamp’s contingent shows that roll TNA C76/68 holds registrations for service between October 1383-October 1384 (23 names); TNA C76/69 between April 1384-June 1385 (40 names); TNA C76/70 between October 1385-May 1386 (32 names) and TNA C76/71 between July 1386-June 1387 (25 names). There is therefore a small amount of overlap for some periods.

John Large was one of only 4 soldiers whose names were entered in the Letters of Protection and Attorney database on 15th June 1385, amongst 10 records of 8 men recorded on that day. These were John Bacun, Nicholas Parys, Stephen Quyntyn and John Whitman, who each took Letters of Attorney, destined for overseas duties.[22] John de Burghchier, Knight, man-at-arms planned for duty in Ghent, Flanders,[23] Richard Cole from Thoralby, Yorkshire E[ast] R[iding]/N[orth] R[iding], for service in Ireland under the captaincy of Edmund [de] Clay,[24] the Chief Justice of Ireland, and Robert (surname, origin and rank not given) for service in Scotland under the captaincy of Reginald Hockere. [25]

John Large is the only soldier whose name was recorded as taking out a protection for service in the Calais Garrison under the captaincy of William Beauchamp. In the light of this, it is not at all surprising to find that no other men from Radipole, Dorset, took out Letters of Protection and Attorney for service at the garrison in Calais under Beauchamp. This would have been unexpected given the relatively small village, but cross-checking the names of all the males in the Radipole Poll Tax list with the Protection and Attorney database, confirms that this is the case. The fact that the name John Large is so very rare means that we can have a high degree of confidence that he is the man whose name was recorded along with his fellow soldiers on 15th May 1385, to serve in various spheres of action in France, Ireland and Ghent.

A further valuable piece of information about a John Large appears in the Norman Rolls, and this usefully supplements the record of his military activities from 1375 onwards. The Norman Rolls are a collection of Chancery documents (C 64) held at The National Archives, which refer to the Duchy of Normandy while it was under the dominion of the English crown before 1204 and, relevant to our present purposes, during the reign of Henry V, 1417-1422. Documents from the reign of Henry V are mainly letters of safe-conduct and protection, grants and confirmations of estates. In addition, the rolls include grants to Henry’s followers of the castles and estates of Normans who had been killed or were in rebellion against the crown, and of grants of offices, commissions of array and presentations to ecclesiastical benefices. A considerable number of the letters concern grants in England.[26] On 1 September 1417, the following:

“Licence to John Large master of a Balinger called Nicholas de Castellyon who has served the king with his ship in the last viage (voyage) to France and taken wages from king to return to his home or elsewhere when he wishes, having served well and faithfully during the time of wages. [27]

A Balinger was a small sea-going vessel, which may perhaps have resembled a Thames barge, although no illustrations or archaeological evidence have been found. In this context, the vessel would have been used to transport men, wages, and supplies from the south coast of England to northern France, and back.[28]

This reference provides very strong support for the suggestion that the soldier John Large was indeed the man recorded in the Poll Tax lists for Radipole, Dorset (although the gap of 30 years could also suggest a son or another relative). The village derived its name from the Saxon Rad (red), and Pool, because the water pool nearby was that colour.[29] The village lies on the River Wey, close to Weymouth, on the south coast of the county. There is some evidence that in Roman times, not only was there a villa and a square building thought to have been a temple here, but also that a port or harbour existed at Radipole, at the end of a road from Dorchester, where the river widened into Radipole Lake. Radipole was formerly known as Retpole, Rappole, and by the date of the Poll Tax of 1381, it was recorded as Rappoll,’[30] and Large’s name was entered as Johannes Large (E179/103/42d m. 2). Even if this valuable port facility had been lost, the River Wey would have provided an ample route for vessels to sail to the coast and then onwards to northern France, to Brittany or Normandy, as required. It would have been much more likely for a ship-owner to have lived, either in a coastal village, or somewhere nearby, within very easy access of the coast, than many miles inland. Radipole, Dorset, would have been the perfect place for John Large, ship-owner to have lived.

In drawing this section on the soldier, John Large, to a close, a note of caution is offered which centres on naming traditions themselves:

“As anyone wrestling with a database of name records from virtually any period of history will discover, first or given names alone are a poor basis for an attempt at identifying individuals. The fact that by the fourteenth century in much of western Europe about a quarter of all men were named John or William, can be a major headache for historians.”[31]

Fortunately for this study, these limitations do not apply, because when one of the joint commonest first or given names in medieval Europe is combined with a very unusual surname, it is transformed into an extremely rare full name, which can be used in the type of investigations described here.

However, finding the name John Large in separate databases; the Poll Tax, the Soldiers’ Database and the Norman Rolls, is not in itself, a sufficiently good reason for claiming that they are one and the same individual. On the other hand, finding plausible connections within his areas of military activity and the landed interests of his commanders, together with a strong geographical link to a village on the south coast from where he could have sailed his vessel to and from northern France, helps to increase the conviction that the John Large found in each of the three records is one and the same man. This is much more than simply circumstantial evidence, which is sometimes all that is available when dealing with records from this era.


This is the second of three projects which have examined the Medieval Soldiers’ Databases using the very rare surname ‘Large’ as a device or tool for investigating patterns of enlistment into the military, and of the way soldiers might change their rank, status, weapons, captain, commander, and occupation, sometimes over a period of several years, provided they survived the rigors of medieval warfare. In an earlier study, it has been shown that comparing names of men in the Soldiers’ Database with names recorded in the Poll Tax lists can be a valuable strategy for discovering small groups or clusters of men who served together and who came from the same town.[32] Work of this type is useful in small-scale research projects which supplement the more wide-ranging academic interests of professional historians, who have done so much to advance our understanding of military affairs during the Hundred Years War with France, especially since the development of the database.[33] It is particularly useful for revealing how individual soldiers, especially archers, may be identified and anchored in their places of origin, sometimes with their families and trades alongside them. This study examining the Letters of Protection and Attorney  for examples of men with the surname Large extends and supplements the work done previously from the Muster Rolls, and it adds weight to the hypothesis proposed, that very rare names can be used as a device for exploring not only where soldiers served and under whom, but how their service activities could change over time.

Acknowledgements: I am very grateful to Professors Anne Curry and Adrian R. Bell for their encouragement, help and support during the work for this study.

David M. Large.

 Useful reading
Anne Curry, The Nationality of Men-at Arms serving in English Armies in Normandy and the pays de conquêt, 1415-1450: A Preliminary Survey.,_The_Nationality_Of_Men-at-Arms_serving_in_English_Armies_in_Normandy_and_the_pays_de_conquete,_1415-1450.pdf. pp. 135.
References and Sources
[1] Adrian R Bell, Anne Curry, Andy King, and David Simpkin. The Soldier in Later Medieval England. Oxford University Press 2013.
For general comments on Normandy Garrisons, see pp. 4, 5, 12-14, 105 & 186.
[2] The Soldier in Later Medieval England. Datasets described.
[3] Bell, Curry, King & Simpkin, ibid. p. 5.
[4] Anne Curry, English Armies in the Fifteenth Century, in A. Curry and M. Hughes, (eds), Arms, Armies and Fortifications in the Hundred Years War (Woodbridge, 1994), p. 49. Quoted in Bell et al, ibid. p. 12.
[5] Johan Schreiner, Wages and prices in England in the later Middle Ages. Scandinavian Economic History Review, 2:2, 61-73,
DOI: 10.1080/03585522.1954.10407617. Table II, p. 63. First published in 1954. Published online, 20 Dec 2011; For a general review of wages in medieval Europe and onwards, see Robert C. Allen, The Great Divergence in European Wages and Prices – from the Middle Ages to the First World War. Explorations in Economic History 38, 41 1-447 (2001). doi: 10.1006/exeh.2001.0775. available online at
[6] Purchasing Power of British Pounds from 1270 to Present, Measuring Worth, 2020.
[7] Bell, Curry, King & Simpkin, ibid. p. 139.
[8] Bell, Curry, King & Simpkin, ibid. p. 141.
[9] Curry, ibid. p. 4.
[11] David M. Large, The Life and Family of Robert Large, Mercer, Mayor of London 1439-1440, First Employer of William Caxton. Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, 2008, pp. 58-59.
[12] Large, ibid. p. 59, quoting Charters and Muniments belonging to the Marquis of Anglesey. The Staffordshire Record Society, formerly known as The William Salt Archaeological Society, 1936. D603/A/ADD/3o1. 1280-1305.
13 Timothy L Hawes, Inhabitants of Norfolk in the 14th Century. The Lay Subsidies 1327 and 1332 preserved in the Public Record Office: 42,000 names and payments. Cringleford, Norwich: Hawes Books, 2000-2002. pp. 259, 409.
14 Curry, ibid. p.3.
15 ADSM, 100J/33/20.
16 ADSM, 100J/33/20.
17 ADSM, 100J/33/21.
18 A. J. Pollard, John Talbot and the War in France 1427-1453. Pen and Sword Military, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, 1983, 2005. p. 68.
19 Pollard, ibid, John Talbot and the War with France, ibid. p. 2.
20 A. J. Pollard, Talbot, John, first earl of Shrewsbury and first earl of Waterford (c. 1387-1453). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online version 4 October 2008. Pollard, ibid John Talbot, pp. 1, 2, 25, 139 etc.
21 Pollard, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Talbot. “The War in France,” 1427-1445.
22 Pollard, John Talbot and the War in France, ibid. p. 5.
23 AN, K 63/7/6.
24 Sir John Fastolf, Encyclopaedia Britannica, online edition, 2019 ; Paston Letters, Collection of English Correspondence, written by the Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, ibid. Simon Scharma, A History of Britain, At the Edge of the World? 3000 BC – AD 1603, p. 269.
25 BNF, MS. 25768, no. 415.
26 BNF, MS. 25768, no. 403.
27 BNF, MS. 25769 no. 498.
28 Christopher Allmand, The Hundred Years’ War: England and France at War, c. 1300–c. 1450, Cambridge University PressISBN 978-0-521-31923-2.
29 Alfred H. Burne, The Agincourt War: A Military History of the Latter part of the Hundred Years War, from 1369-1453. Frontline Books, 2014, pp. 133-134. Cited in ‘Château Gaillard,’
30 BL, Add. Ch. 11768.
31 BNF, MS. 25772, no. 1016.
32 BL, Add. Ch. 12184.
33  From Les Vigiles de Charles VIIBibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. Gallica Digital Library, digital ID btv1b105380390/f117
34 Bell et al. ibid. p. 172, Table 4.5.
35 Anne Curry, The Nationality of Men-at-Arms serving in English Armies in Normandy and the pays de conquêt, 1415-1450: A Preliminary Survey.,_The_Nationality_Of_Men-at-Arms_serving_in_English_Armies_in_Normandy_and_the_pays_de_conquete,_1415-1450.pdf
36 François de Surienne.
37 BL, Add. Ch. 12184.
38 John A. Wagner, Encyclopaedia of the Hundred Years War. Greenwood Press 2006. Google Books on-line, p. 231.
39 Wagner, ibid. p. 129.
40 AN, K 67/12/58 (Counter Roll).
41 BL, Add. Ch. 11988.
42 BNF, MS. Fr. 25775, no. 1400.
43 BNF, MS. Fr. 25775, no. 1411.
44 BL, Add. Ch. 8005.
45 BNF, MS. 25775, no. 1504.
46 Julian Lock, Sir Henry Retford, (c. 1354-1409). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004. [].
47 Katharine S. B. Keats-Rohan, Domesday People: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents, 1066-1166. Boydell & Brewer Ltd., 1999. Chapter 3, The Bretons and the Norman Conquest p. 44, 46.
48 Pam Wilson, Manager of the website, Raoul le Large (d’Aubigné), also known as “Radulphus Largus Albiniacus”, “Ralph the Large.” Quoting Feet of Fines for the County Norfolk, 1198-1202, 01770244 “of all the land which Ralph Largus (Radulfus Larges) held in Reinham (Raynham)” Date: 1200,
49 BNF, MS. Fr. 25767, no.46, and BNF, MS. Fr. 25767, no. 109.
51 Curry, ibid, pp. 142, 143. Although, note this related to Pontoise in the 1430s, rather than 1423.
52 Given Names c. 1450-1650.
53 Soldiers killed during WW1 named via DNA from relatives. BBC News report, 22 March 2014.